Even the highly vulnerable residents of long-term care facilities are generally experiencing less severe disease from Omicron than from earlier versions of the coronavirus, according to new data.
Researchers in England compared hospitalization rates in residents of 333 facilities before and after the Omicron variant became dominant. Among 398 residents infected prior to the emergence of Omicron, 10.8% required hospitalization, compared with 4% of 1,241 infected with Omicron. The average age of infected residents was 85 years.
After accounting for other risk factors, the odds of hospitalization were 50% lower for infected patients in the Omicron period, the researchers reported ahead of peer review. While most facility residents had been vaccinated and about 10% had been previously infected, the reduction in relative risk of hospitalization between the pre-Omicron and Omicron periods was greatest among Omicron-infected patients who had received vaccine booster doses, at 77%.
The researchers have also seen fewer deaths from COVID-19 in the Omicron period, although they said it was too soon to draw firm conclusions about the variant’s effect of mortality.
“Overall,” they conclude, “the markedly decreased severity combined with high vaccination uptake and prior natural infection can be expected to significantly limit the impact of the current wave of Omicron infections on hospitalizations and deaths in residents of long-term care facilities.”